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Head of UN Pension Fund Ignores Investigation, While Whistleblower Speaks in Exclusive Interview

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, February 8 -- The chief executive officer of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, Bernard G. Cocheme, faced with a UN investigative report recommending action against two staff members for their role in handing out no-bid contracts to one of their former bosses, has said he will "take no action" against the staff members. The stand-off on corruption at the Pension Fund now moves to the General Assembly.

            Despite detailed adverse findings by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, Paul Dooley and Dulcie C. Bull remain among UN Pension Fund management, as a controversial outsourcing of $9 billion in pension investments in North American stocks continues moving forward over the objections of the staff union and staff council, and the until-now more muted concerns of the General Assembly.

            According to a statement released Thursday by the UN to Inner City Press, Mr. Cocheme "informed OIOS that he disagrees with the findings and recommendations of the report of investigation - as regards the actions of his staff - and advised that he 'intends to take no action' with regard to them. OIOS advised him that pursuant to its mandate, it will report his response to the General Assembly." 

            Inner City Press tried to reach Mr. Cocheme by telephone for an explanation of his disagreement and refusal to act on UN investigators' recommendations, but as of press time six hours later, no response had been received.

            The original whistleblower, Yuri Kondralyev, Thursday evening gave Inner City Press an on-the-record and so-far exclusive interview about the scandal(s). Combined with information by other UNJSPF insiders, not for attribution for fear of retaliation, a picture has emerged of a Pension Fund management out of control.

UNJSPF: Tell it to the General Assembly

            First, some of the tale of Yuri Kondralyev. His memo along with a well-regarded colleague on October 4, 2005, detailed corruption both financial and managerial. It was sent to Controller Warren Sach, to OHRM's Jan Beagle, to OIOS and the now-gone Mark Malloch Brown and Christopher Burnham. Thursday Mr. Kondralyev told Inner City Press that the first responses he received were from Bernard Cocheme, and were classic cover-up. "They nod and do nothing," Mr. Kondralyev says.

            According to Mr. Kondralyev, beyond her involvement in Paul Dooley's shenanigans, Dulcie Bull was abusive to staff, and knew little of her business. Her answers on matters of pensions were ill-informed, and most of her work was delegated to one Norah Fitzgerald. In fact, according to Mr. Kondralyev and other sources, within the Pension Fund those most able to help pensioners are at the General Service or "G" category, while the higher-ups coast by with little knowledge, carried by those beneath them.

            Mr. Kondralyev and others describe an agency out of control, which went beyond its legal powers and bought an office building, only to be ordered by the UN Office of Legal Affairs to divest it. The Pension Fund sought special status, to for example allow more expensive business travel than is the case in the rest of the UN.  These days, it is said by inside sources, Mr. Cocheme is a frequent flier to Geneva by way of Paris. Some is justified by Pension business, these sources say, and some is not. The problem is nobody's watching.

            The Pension Fund is a club in which a father can hire his son. Witness, for example, the passage from Ernie De Turris, former Deputy, to his son Frank, now in the CEO's office (of whom Mr. Kondralyev, despite noting the inescapable family connection, also has kind words). Witness Dulcie Bull's hiring of one Hugh O'Donnell, sources say, who then got his girlfriend hired. Ms. Bull brought in Peter Goddard, saying that of the hundreds of people who applied, only he was the qualifications. This is what Paul Dooley said of his friend Gerald Bodell, in giving him sole source IT contracts. It emerges that beyond Mr. Bodell, there was an even less-present contractor getting paid, working off-site from Dallas. The money was pouring out the door and nobody was watching.

            An informed source says the problem at the Pension Fund is the lack of accountability. No matter how badly a decision works out, no effects are felt. Dulcie Bull hired a woman who, for the first time in Pension Fund history, was unable to close the books at year's end. Yet there were no consequences. Later Ms. Bull was named for action in the OIOS report. But Cocheme denies it, and Ms. Bull made a presentation on pensions earlier this week. Many personnel issues were referred to OHRM, run by Jan Beagle, and nothing was done.

            That remains Mr. Kondralyev main complaint, that nothing has been done. He is not bitter: he lives in Riverdale in the North Bronx, works as a consultant and is writing a book, on economics. During the above-sketched interview, Inner Cit Press twice asked him if he was sure he wished to be named, on the record. Mr. Kondralyev said yes without equivocation. For people with either current and past affiliations with the UN, in light of propensity to try to retaliate, Inner City Press offers anonymity. But for now it must be noted that upbeat whistle-blowing is something the UN needs much more of.

            The OIOS report, on which Inner City Press was the first to report, on February 5 (click here for that initial article) has now been distributed more widely. While on the evening of February 8, some high up in the UN blamed Inner City Press for its release, a copy was given to a UN office on request, and then reappeared in the hands of another reported.

            Following Inner City Press' February 5 exclusive, at the following day's noon briefing, Ban Ki-moon's spokeswoman faced questions about the report, which she didn't yet have. On February 7, Inner City Press asked the spokeswoman about the

OIOS audit, which names individuals that still work for the Pension Fund actually, that was recommended that action be taken.  We understand that Burnham, Chris Burnham, before he left asked that the action be taken.  I donít know if Ms. Barcena has followed-up on that?  Whatís going to happen with that?  ... overall, what the Secretary-General is going to do about outsourcing the pension; and number two, is there any follow-up to the OIOS investigation?
Spokesperson:  ... the Secretary-General has not reacted yet, nor has Ms. Barcena, who, as I said earlier this week, is coming back from her trip to Nairobi.  And she should be coming to speak to you when she gets back.  She has accepted to come and respond to your questions.

            To not simply await the promised opportunity to question Ms. Barcena, which Inner City Press has been told will be on February 12, Inner City Press also on Wednesday asked the Special Assistant to the Spokesman for the GA President, Frehiwot Bekele, the following:

Inner City Press:  The Staff Pension Fund reports to the GA, is a creature of the GA in relationship to it.  So, Iím wondering, thereís been an OIOS investigative report that has been titled 'Conflict of Interest, Favoritism and Mismanagement in the UN Staff Pension Fund.'  Iím wondering if this was ever turned over to the GA, and if the GA has taken action on it.

Special Assistant:  Iím not aware.  I can try to find out.

Inner City Press:  Iíd appreciate that. 

            On Thursday morning, Mr. Bekele told Inner City Press that since the OIOS report hadn't been given a formal number to be released, the Secretary-General's Spokesperson's office would be responding, which they did, requesting a copy of the report and then sending the following response:

Subject: Your question on OIOS and the Pension Fund

From: [Spokesperson's Office at] un.org

To: Inner City Press

Sent: Thu, 8 Feb 2007

In March 2006, the OIOS completed an investigation into allegations of possible conflict of interest, favoritism and mismanagement at the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. Based upon the evidence adduced, OIOS concluded that several staff members - including two Senior UNJSPF staff - have acted improperly in connection to contracts for information technology services awarded to a consultant retained by UNJSPF. 

OIOS issued several recommendations in this case, including that UNJSPF management take appropriate action against its two staff. The Chief Executive Officer of UNJSPF informed OIOS that he disagrees with the findings and recommendations of the report of investigation - as regards the actions of his staff - and advised that he "intends to take no action" with regard to them. OIOS advised him that pursuant to its mandate, it will report his response to the General Assembly.

Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 59/272, the report is available to Member States upon request. It has already been released, in redacted form, to two Member States who have requested it.

            Who, you ask, are these unnamed Member States?  And what will they be doing? Watch this site.

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UN Pension Fund's Investment Director Has Resigned, Sources Say, Recusal and Revolving Door Remains Unresolved

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, February 7 -- In the midst of controversy about proposals to outsource the money-management of a portion of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, Inner City Press has been informed by well-placed sources that the director of the Fund's Investment Management Service, Chieko Okuda, has resigned.

            Ms. Okuda has resigned, these sources say, and yet remains on the job, as a still-withheld Request for Proposals is circulated to an undisclosed short-list of bidders to take over management of the North American equities portion of the Fund. Questions that arise include whether there is any possibility of Ms. Okuda going to work at the investment firm, if any, deemed the competition's winner, and even whether Ms. Okuda should play any role in the selection process, given that she is, as one source puts it, "in play," and looking for a job outside of the UN, in the financial field.

   With the UNJSPF still refusing to release either the Request for Proposals or the short-list of bidders, any outside review of conflicts of interest is rendered impossible, perhaps intentionally. Given the detailed picture of conflicts of interest within UNJSPF painted in an until-recently-confidential investigative report by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services, and the failure to have acted on this conflicts and OIOS recommendations, serious questions have arisen about UNJSPF's withholding of information.

            On Monday, Inner City Press asked UN Controller Warren Sach for a copy of the Request for Proposals, and was referred to Ms. Okuda. A telephone call to Ms. Okuda's number on Monday has still not resulted in obtaining the RFP, nor the requested list of bidders.

            Needing answers, at Wednesday's noon briefing by the Spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Inner City Press asked for the Secretariat's position, and about the until-this-week confidential OIOS "Investigation of conflict of interest, favoritism and mismanagement at the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund." This report among other things details how through the Pension Fund's Paul Dooley, millions of dollars in contacts were given to a company called Sprig, Ltd, run by Gerald Bodell, who was previously Dooley's supervisor at New York Guardian Mortgage Corporation.  "Sprig received an additional seven ICA contracts from UNJSPF, for a total of nine contracts without competitive bidding."

            Recommendations 1 and 2 of the OIOS investigative report directs that "appropriate action be taken regarding Ms. Bull" and Mr. Dooley.  As confirmed Tuesday by Inner City Press, both remains working for the UN, despite the OIOS' findings and recommendations. Both Dulcie Bull -- regarding whom "action" was recommended by OIOS -- and current Pension Fund CEO Mr. Cocheme played their roles: "Ms. Bull and Mr. Cocheme both recommended approval of the contract... and Mr. Bahel signed on behalf of the UN." Regarding Mr. Cocheme, and others named in the OIOS report, there will be more detailed accounts shortly. For now we can report that there is no love lost between Ms. Okuda and Mr. Cocheme, and that it is Mr. Cocheme, in the first instance, who stands to have to answer for the lack of action on OIOS' findings as to Mr. Dooley and Ms. Bull.

Bernard Cocheme, CEO of UN Pension Fund

   It should also be noted that much of the current opposition to the outsourcing plan dates back to a switch in the last UN administration, attributed Mark Malloch Brown and the Under Secretary General for Management, toward outsourcing and privatization.

            Further back, the Fund's lack of transparency springs from its status as an inter-agency body, which has been allowed by, among others, the Office of Legal Affairs and Jan Beagle of OHRM to veer from Secretariat rules. As the OIOS report puts it, "as an inter-agency entity, the UNJSPF is not bound to follow the specific regulations and rule of any of its member organizations in any area, including the application of financial regulations and rules." It also bear remembering that the OIOS report does not even purport to have investigated and addressed all the issues raised: many were simply "referred" to OHRM, that is, to Jan Beagle, regarding whom the Staff Council has passed a vote of no-confidence. It has previously been requested that Ms. Beagle come to a press briefing, to discuss a variety of issues. Many staff now say they'll take measure of forty-day Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by how he addresses this pension outsource question.

            From Wednesday's noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: On the Pension Fund, in the last couple of days, thereís been a lot of action.  Thereís a meeting today of the Staff Union to endorse the Staff Council resolution that was passed, which, among other things, calls on the Secretary-General to, as a fiduciary of the Pension Fund, to at least stall, if not stop, the outsourcing of management of parts of the pension.  So, Iím wondering, one, if the Secretary-General is aware of that Staff Council resolution, has any response to it?  And also, there seems to be an OIOS audit, which names individuals that still work for the Pension Fund actually, that was recommended that action be taken.  We understand that Burnham, Chris Burnham, before he left asked that the action be taken.  I donít know if Ms. Barcena has followed-up on that?  Whatís going to happen with that?  So, Iím sorryÖ thereís two different questions:  overall, what the Secretary-General is going to do about outsourcing the pension; and number two, is there any follow-up to the OIOS investigation?

Spokesperson:  Well, an answer to your question is contained in the briefing given to staff on the Pension Fund on Tuesday by Mr. Warren Sach, the Controller.  This is on 'ISeek,' and you can have all the information you want on this.  All the information you ask me for, itís there, itís public.

Inner City Press: I guess, after that meeting, the Staff Union is now voting to take an additional step, so thatís why Iím, youíre just saying the Secretary-General stands behind the outsourcing?

Spokesperson:  Well, so far, no.  Iím not saying this.  Iím saying that you had information on it given by the Controller, and the Secretary-General has not reacted yet, nor has Ms. Barcena, who, as I said earlier this week, is coming back from her trip to Nairobi.  And she should be coming to speak to you when she gets back.  She has accepted to come and respond to your questions.

            While awaiting the promised opportunity to question Ms. Barcena on a variety of matters, it is worth noting that while the previous Under Secretary General for Management served as S-G's representative for the Pension Fund, his successor Ms. Barcena has not for now taken the post, leaving it to an arguably conflicted Warren Sach, who is also in charge of procurement. The above-quoted OIOS report makes much of the "principle of segregation of responsibilities between requisitioning and procurement." It is also unclear if the post-employment restrictions, weakened and announced in the final work week of the Kofi Annan Secretariat apply to Ms. Okuda.

            Following Wednesday's noon briefing, Inner City Press followed the spokesperson's advice and checked Mr. Sach's presentation on the UN's iSeek computer system. (This system is not available outside of the UN, and so cannot be linked-to here.) The presentation still does not answer the question of how large a fee would be paid, and makes no mention of the question made about the ACABQ recommendation to undertake a comprehensive asset-liability management study (A/61/545, paragraph 17 (c)). On Monday, Sachs responded vaguely that the ACABQ only made recommendations, that the ACABQ had "no expertise" on the subject, that the asset-liability management study would not eventually help to take a decision on the matter, and that the General Assembly had rejected it.

            As some noted at the time, this last is not entirely correct. The General Assembly in section VIII, paragraph 3 of its resolution 61/240 (draft A/C.5/61/L.29) "stresse[d] the need for a comprehensive asset-liability management study...".  The Secretariat, or at least those within now pushing for outsourcing, may argue that "stressing the need" is not binding for management, but it seems clear in context that the General Assembly did not reject the idea.

            Due to the lack of answers elsewhere, and the Secretariat's gloss on the General Assembly position, on Wednesday Inner City Press also asked the Special Assistant to the Spokesman for the GA President, Frehiwot Bekele, the following:

Inner City Press:  Something a little different: the Staff Pension Fund reports to the GA, is a creature of the GA in relationship to it.  So, Iím wondering, thereís been an OIOS investigative report that has been titled 'Conflict of Interest, Favoritism and Mismanagement in the UN Staff Pension Fund.'  Iím wondering if this was ever turned over to the GA, and if the GA has taken action on it.

Special Assistant:  Iím not aware.  I can try to find out.

Inner City Press:  Iíd appreciate that. 

            To be continued.

Other Inner City Press reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on www.InnerCityPress.com --

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Annan Family Ties With Purchaser from Compass, Embroiled in UN Scandal, Raise Unanswered Ethical Questions

At the UN, from Casamance to Transdniestria, Kosovars to Lezgines, Micro-States as Powerful's Playthings

Inquiry Into Housing Subsidies Contrary to UN Charter Goes Ignored for 8 Weeks, As Head UN Peacekeeper Does Not Respond

On the UN - Corporate Beat, Dow Chemical Luncheon Chickens Come Home to Roost

Stop Bank Branch Closings and Monopolies in the Katrina Zone, Group Says, Challenging Regions- AmSouth Merger

Ship-Breakers Missed by UN's Budget for Travel and Consultants in Bangladesh, Largest UNIFIL Troop Donor

With Somalia on the Brink of Horn-Wide War, UN Avoids Question of Ethiopian Invasion

In UN's Lebanon Frenzy, Darfur Is Ignored As Are the Disabled, "If You Crave UNIFIL, Can't You Make Do With MONUC?"

UN Decries Uzbekistan's Use of Torture, While Helping It To Tax and Rule; Updates on UNIFIL and UNMIS Off-Message

On Lebanon, Russian Gambit Focuses Franco-American Minds, Short Term Resolution Goes Blue Amid Flashes of Lightening

Africa Can Solve Its Own Problems, Ghanaian Minister Tells Inner City Press, On LRA Peace Talks and Kofi Annan's Views

At the UN, Jay-Z Floats Past Questions on Water Privatization and Sweatshops, Q'Orianka Kilcher in the Basement

In the UN Security Council, Speeches and Stasis as Haiti is Forgotten, for a Shebaa Farms Solution?

UN Knew of Child Soldier Use by Two Warlords Whose Entry into Congo Army the UN Facilitated

Impunity's in the Air, at the UN in Kinshasa and NY, for Kony and Karim and MONUC for Kazana

UN Still Silent on Somalia, Despite Reported Invasion, In Lead-Up to More Congo Spin

UN's Guehenno Says Congo Warlord Just Needs Training, and Kazana Probe Continues

With Congo Elections Approaching, UN Issues Hasty Self-Exoneration as Annan Is Distracted

In DR Congo, UN Applauds Entry into Army of Child-Soldier Commander Along with Kidnapper

Spinning the Congo, UN Admits Hostage Deal with Warlord That Put Him in Congolese Army

At the UN, Dow Chemical's Invited In, While Teaming Up With Microsoft is Defended

Kofi Annan Questioned about Congolese Colonel Who Kidnapped Seven UN Soldiers

UN Silent As Congolese Kidnapper of UN Peacekeepers Is Made An Army Colonel: News Analysis

UN's Guehenno Speaks of "Political Overstretch" Undermining Peacekeeping in Lower Profile Zones

In Gaza Power Station, the Role of Enron and the U.S. Government's OPIC Revealed by UN Sources

UN's Corporate Partnerships Will Be Reviewed, While New Teaming Up with Microsoft, and UNDP Continues

BTC Briefing, Like Pipeline, Skirts Troublespots, Azeri Revelations

Conflicts of Interest in UNHCR Program with SocGen and Pictet Reveal Reform Rifts

UN Grapples with Somalia, While UNDP Funds Mugabe's Human Rights Unit, Without Explanation

UN Gives Mugabe Time with His Friendly Mediator, Refugees Abandoned

At the UN, Friday Night's Alright for Fighting; Annan Meets Mugabe

UN Acknowledges Abuse in Uganda, But What Did Donors Know and When? Kazakh Questions

In Uganda, UNDP to Make Belated Announcement of Program Halt, But Questions Remain (and see The New Vision, offsite).

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Leads UN Agency to Suspend Its Work and Spending

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Blamed on UNDP, Still Silent on Finance

Alleged Abuse in Disarmament in Uganda Known by UNDP, But Dollar Figures Still Not Given: What Did UN Know and When?

Strong Arm on Small Arms: Rift Within UN About Uganda's Involuntary Disarmament of Karamojong Villages

UN's Selective Vision on Somalia and Wishful Thinking on Uighurs

UN Habitat Predicts The World Is a Ghetto, But Will Finance Be Addressed at Vancouver World Urban Forum?

UN's Annan Concerned About Use of Terror's T-Word to Repress, Wants Freedom of Information

UN  Waffles on Human Rights in Central Asia and China; ICC on Kony and a Hero from Algiers

UN & US, Transparency for Finance But Not Foreign Affairs: Somalia, Sovereignty and Senator Tom Coburn

Human Rights Forgotten in UN's War of Words, Bolton versus Mark Malloch Brown: News Analysis

In Praise of Migration, UN Misses the Net and Bangalore While Going Soft on Financial Exclusion

UN Sees Somalia Through a Glass, Darkly, While Chomsky Speaks on Corporations and Everything But Congo

Corporate Spin on AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence

The Silence of the Congo and Naomi Watts; Between Bolivia and the World Bank

Human Rights Council Has Its Own Hanging Chads; Cocky U.S. State Department Spins from SUVs

Child Labor and Cargill and Nestle; Iran, Darfur and WHO's on First with Bird Flu

Press Freedom? Editor Arrested by Congo-Brazzaville, As It Presides Over Security Council

The Place of the Cost-Cut UN in Europe's Torn-Up Heart;
Deafness to Consumers, Even by the Greens

Background Checks at the UN, But Not the Global Compact; Teaching Statistics from Turkmenbashi's Single Book

Ripped Off Worse in the Big Apple, by Citigroup and Chase: High Cost Mortgages Spread in Outer Boroughs in 2005, Study Finds

Burundi: Chaos at Camp for Congolese Refugees, Silence from UNHCR, While Reform's Debated by Forty Until 4 AM

The Chadian Mirage: Beyond French Bombs, Is Exxon In the Cast? Asylum and the Uzbeks, Shadows of Stories to Come

Through the UN's One-Way Mirror, Sustainable Development To Be Discussed by Corporations, Even Nuclear Areva

Racial Disparities Grew Worse in 2005 at Citigroup, HSBC and Other Large Banks

Mine Your Own Business: Explosive Remnants of War and the Great Powers, Amid the Paparazzi

Human Rights Are Lost in the Mail: DR Congo Got the Letter, But the Process is Still Murky

Iraq's Oil to be Metered by Shell, While Basrah Project Remains Less than Clear

Kofi, Kony, Kagame and Coltan: This Moment in the Congo and Kampala

As Operation Swarmer Begins, UN's Qazi Denies It's Civil War and Has No Answers if Iraq's Oil is Being Metered

Cash Crop: In Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in their Camps

The Shorted and Shorting in Humanitarian Aid: From Davos to Darfur, the Numbers Don't Add Up

UN Reform: Transparency Later, Not Now -- At Least Not for AXA - WFP Insurance Contract

In the Sudanese Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says

Empty Words on Money Laundering and Narcotics, from the UN and Georgia

What is the Sound of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War at UN

Kosovo: Of Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of Ferronikeli Mines

Abkhazia: Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia

Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

Other Inner City Press reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on www.InnerCityPress.com --

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